#80: Kingcrest Park
“It’s never really full which is perfect.”
#8 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
4150 Knight Street
There are three distinct elements to Kingcrest Park: a quiet sloping green space and community garden ideal for quiet hangouts, a playground intended for smaller children, and a big old sports area with a basketball court and large field.
All of these elements do the job they need to at an adequate-to-good level: the sloping grassy area is far away from any busy street, the field is in good condition, and the playground has a unique pink/green/yellow colour scheme and just enough variety of play equipment.
(There’s also, right in the middle of it, a very strange springy swing with a “Desert Command” army car theme, for reasons that still confuse me, but let’s move on.)
Even though there’s nothing exciting about Kingcrest — it’s the last park with no grades of B or better — it’s all done well, and with the King Edward/Knight/Kingsway triangle right across the street, it’s a convenient community hub, even if the noise on Knight does grate a bit.
#79: Strathcona Park
“Plenty of things to do at this big greenspace.”
#2 in Strathcona
857 Malkin Avenue
The story of Strathcona Park is one of change from its very beginnings: it was the site of the city’s main dump for a number of decades, before community outcry forced the city to move the dump and make it a park.
It was built on top of the old landfill in the 1940s and called “False Creek Park”, back when there were people alive who remembered how False Creek originally continued well past Main Street, before it was filled to create industrial and railroad space.
It was then renamed to Strathcona in the 1970s, had its two community gardens developed in the 80s and 90s, and had extensive upgrades in the 2000s. It’s regularly been a place in flux, it’s always been a centre of the community, it’s been home to controversies over homeless people in the past and will probably be again.
But today? After a multi-million dollar cleanup effort following a year-long tent encampment? It’s big enough to do just about anything, with basketball and tennis courts, ample field space, washrooms and an older-but-adequate playground.
The real highlight is the two community gardens on the south side: the Strathcona Community Garden to the west is fairly standard but has some lovely sitting areas, but the Cottonwood Community Garden to the east winds around trees, has a variety of different themed areas, and feels completely removed from the city.
If you take away the very excellent community gardens though, what you’re left with is a park that feels a little bit dated: the playground is of the chunky plastic structures less interesting to kids today, there’s no real internal routing around the park, and there’s not much differentiation between the off-leash dog park and the endless fields surrounding it.
Perhaps one day a full modernization of Strathcona will be the next chapter in its story of change. For now though, we can only see a park that is very big, with enough to do, but not fully living up to its potential.
#78: Chaldecott Park
“Very green expanse. Water park. What’s not to like?”
#3 in Dunbar-Southlands
4175 Wallace Street
There’s more to Chaldecott than its origin story, but it is the most unique thing about it, so let’s start there.
According to the city’s first archivist, Major Matthews, there was a prominent early landowner in Vancouver by the name of F.M. Chladecott. He had fallen behind in paying taxes, so in exchange for the city getting off his back, he agreed to give up 12 acres of his holdings, which the municipality then set aside for a park.
From those very Vancouver beginnings, Chaldecott has evolved into a very enjoyable west side green space, with a good baseball field and small wooded area.
Most importantly, it’s a very good space for kids, with a neat old-school playground, and a pretty solid spray park — in general the best spray parks, much like the best playgrounds, are found in the municipalities surrounding Vancouver, but that’s another story — and washrooms as well.
It’s a lot of nice stuff in a mid-sized space, punctuated by a nice view from the high point of the park on the northeast corner, as we inch closer to the truly great parks in the city.
Even if it is named for a real estate holder who failed to pay his taxes on time.
#77: Oak Meadows Park
“Love this park, especially when the grass is long and extra meadowy.”
#2 in South Cambie
899 West 37th Avenue
Completed in just 2009, Oak Meadows is a bit of a secret, owing to the fact that it’s jammed between a secondary school, Oak Street, and a pair of large land holdings under transition.
And part of the reason the park is a bit of a secret is likely due to its half-formed feel: there’s a soccer field in the middle, a jogging trail around it, a tiny playground for younger children hidden among some bushes. And the heart is a large unkempt area that isn’t quite a forest or a meadow, where dogs can run free.
This doesn’t necessarily sound like huge praise, but it is: Oak Meadows is unlike a lot of parks in the city, with a way less formal and designed feel, and is separated out enough that it’s a great place for many groups to hang out.
There’s a number of secondhand chairs placed in a semi-circle among some trees, and last we checked there’s an insect hotel made from an old phone booth, part of a huge pollinator garden within the park.
With a large development coming in at the old transit site to the south and the Heather Lands set to be redeveloped to the east, more people will soon discover the quirky charms of Oak Meadows. We hope they find it as neat as we did.
#76: Kensington Park
“One of the best views of the city imo. ❤️”
#7 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
5175 Dumfries Street
Ah, that view.
There are few places providing a more panoramic sweep of Vancouver than heading down the hill on Knight Street at 37th Avenue — the full view of the mountains and the port as you enter the core of the city, a reminder of what all the hype is about.
To the east of that stretch of road is Kensington Park. It too is designed to showcase that view, a gentle hill the dominant feature to the park, with some artwork near the top showing silhouettes of the skyline to reinforce the point.
As you head down, there’s a pretty good skateboard bowl, along with a generic 7/10 playground, built by the same manufacturer (Blue Imp) that did a couple dozen 7/10 playgrounds for the city 10-20 years ago.
There’s also another baseball and soccer field, and a community centre, so the park doesn’t lack amenities or views. Still, it doesn’t come together in a particularly integrated way; it’s a little too field heavy, with a lot of underused dead space on the top of the slope.
On a snowy day though, with that view and that hill?
There aren’t many better places to be.
#75: Clinton Park
“just your average Vancouver Park.”
#5 in Hastings-Sunrise
2690 Grant Street
There are 35 parks in the City of Vancouver with a washroom and a big field you can play soccer or baseball on.
If you close your eyes you can probably imagine one of them pretty easily: there’s a small slope from the street down to the park, with a playground that could probably use an upgrade, maybe a community garden or tennis court sprinkled in, and how much you use it depends on how close it is to your house.
Of those 35, Clinton is right around the middle, an archetype for the city’s favourite form of park. The major highlights are new accessible washrooms and a few trees and plants dotted around the playground. The lowlights are yet another underused wading pool and a lack of secondary amenities like a basketball court or modern playground.
It’s still a good park though, with a tremendous amount of space in the middle of the city, one of those things that we take for granted when there’s dozens of other examples to pick from.
#74: Riverview Park
“The kids love snaking in and out of the low hanging branches.”
#3 in Marpole
1751 West 66th Avenue
There’s not too much to Riverview: it’s a big sloping park, about two city blocks large, with a playground in one corner and a bunch of trees dotted around the green space.
What a lovely green space though! It provides excellent views of the sunset, lots of wide open space for frisbee or baseball, and enough trees for exploring, particularly for little ones. A couple of them also offer excellent climbing opportunities, the type that is rare to see in parks these days. And its bordered by three quiet streets and the Arbutus Greenway, giving it a real tranquility.
The older wooden playground could (say it with me) use an upgrade, but otherwise this is an excellent space for kids to play, and roam, and imagine, even without a lot of gimmicks, and yay to those sorts of parks.
#73: Salsbury Park
“Nice little neighborhood park with great mountain view.”
#5 in Grandview-Woodland
1806 Adanac Street
“Small park on a steep hill” is not necessarily a recipe for success, and yet Salsbury delivers.
The park is about the size of one mid-sized apartment complex, and consists of a small playground, a large grassy slope, and some grass and benches in between the two of them.
The playground is quite good for kids 3-6, with a rubber surface, a disc swing and a sandy pit. The benches give a nice view of the mountains, while the slope invites people to lay out on a summer day.
With a number of excellent restaurants a block away at Commercial and Venables, it’s an ideal hangout spot for people living in the neighbourhood, or those just visiting for some spicy chicken or Thai food.
It’s a wonderful (if rare) example of how small parks in Vancouver can be excellent multi-use places — all it takes is a decent playground and a modicum of cleverness with the design.
#72: Cedar Cottage Park
“As with all parks/public spaces in our fair city, I only wish that there was a bit of shelter for enjoying these outdoor spaces a little more on those rainy west coast days.”
#6 in Kensington-Cedar Cottage
2650 Clark Drive
Reopening in early October 2020 after extensive renovations, Cedar Cottage is a redesigned park done right.
A brand-new playground includes two separate play structures for different ages, and a few different swings (traditional and disc-shaped) on a rubber surface. Gentle curves in the grass and big trees surrounding the path give it a lived-in feel. And a pair of basketball/pickleball courts reflect the type of sports Vancouverites play today, not what was in vogue 50 years ago.
There’s a bit too much noise from Knight Street (there’s always a bit too much noise from Knight), and the lack of covered area reflects a continued stubbornness on the city to acknowledge that it rains five months straight in this neck of the woods, and a gazebo or dry patio area once in a while would be nice.
Still. It’s a good upgrade in an area with plenty of young families, and a template worth following for smaller parks going forward.
#71: Victoria Park
“Um, the locals call it Bocce Park. It’s where old dudes play Bocce mostly.”
#4 in Grandview-Woodland
1425 Victoria Drive
A big flat park in a medium-density east side neighbourhood, Victoria is essentially the Dude Chilling Park of Grandview-Woodland.
That means a few things: first, that there’s lots of dudes chilling, often with a beer in hand, many of them setting up shop near the long bocce court on the east end of the park. Second, there’s lots of dogs using the small patchy field, and your tolerance for both activities will vary depending on your age and predilections.
The reasons why Dude Chilling is the 85th best park while Victoria is the 69th, despite having far less notoriety, are pretty simple though.
First, Victoria has a newish playground playground, the type with a fun triangle-shaped climbing apparatus and multiple play structures for different ages.
Second, Victoria has real washrooms, not just a portapotty. We need not describe any further why this matters.
And third, the park as a whole feels a little more cohesive than Dude Chilling, given that it’s a tight square surrounded by trees and homes on all sides.
All told, it’s a fine example of a neighbourhood park — providing you don’t mind open dogs or open beer — even with a relative lack of publicity.